In the United States, 1 of the most sacred principals of the criminal justice system is that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Sadly, however, not everyone receives such fair treatment.
In March 2018, police received a 911 call about a man breaking into cars in a Sacramento neighborhood. When the cops found the man they believed to be the suspect, however, they assumed his guilty because of what he was holding in his hand. Now his family is fighting for justice so no one else’s innocence is wrongly taken away…
A Quiet Night In
Just before 9:30 p.m. on March 18, 2018, Sequita Thompson was enjoying a quiet night in her home in Sacramento, California when she suddenly heard the sound of gunshots, which seemed to be coming from her backyard or possibly a neighbor’s yard.
“It went ‘pow, pow, pow.’ They just kept on shooting,” said Sequita, who didn’t go outside to see what was going on because she didn’t want to risk getting hit by a stray bullet since she wasn’t sure where the gunshots were even coming from…
A Knock At The Door
Within a few minutes, the gunshots stopped, however, it was a couple of hours before police showed up at Sequita’s home and knocked on the door. When Sequita answered, she noticed the officer seemed extremely serious and was surprised when he asked to see photos of her grandchildren.
The detective didn’t explain much to Sequita about what happened several hours prior, but before he left told her she couldn’t go out to her backyard. “He was real quiet, and said, ‘Ma’am you can’t go back there, you can’t go back there,’ ” Sequita explained…
Flesh And Blood
“I said ‘OK,’ “ Sequita said. It wasn’t until she peered out of a window that looked out onto her backyard that she realized the reason the officer didn’t want her going outside was that her own flesh and blood had been shot to death on his own property.
“I waited till he walked out that door, I opened up that curtain, and (saw) my grandson on the ground dead,” Sequita said. Stephon Alonzo Clark, Sequita’s 22-year-old grandson, was a loving father to 2 young children and had been living at his grandparents’ home for some time…
The 911 Call
Hours before Sequita saw her own grandson lying dead in her backyard, police received a 911 call at around 9 p.m. that Sunday evening from someone who claimed they saw a man breaking into 3 vehicles around the Sacramento neighborhood.
Where The Trouble Began
Police arrived at the 7500 block of 29th Street at 9:18 p.m., which was around the area where the 911 caller reported seeing someone breaking into cars. While on-duty officers were looking for the suspect on the ground, a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department helicopter was also sent out to help the search…
Officers in the helicopter claimed they saw a man with a ‘toolbar’ breaking a window of a home on the block and instructed officers on the ground where to go. While searching for the robber, officers came across a young, African American man who they believed was the suspect.
The young man happened to be 23-year-old Stephon Clark, and when he started walking at the side of a house towards the backyard, police ran up on the front lawn and ordered him to stop and show his hands. According to the police, Stephon turned and ran towards the back of the house…
The Alleged Weapon
The 2 officers at the scene ran after Stephon, and while they were in pursuit, 1 of the cops yelled that he saw a gun. When they reached the backyard, the officers claimed Stephon turned in their direction and raised his hands. While his arm was extended, police saw an object in Stephon’s hand that they believed was a gun.
According to the officers, they believed their lives were in danger so they started firing their guns. According to Sgt. Vance Chandler, the department’s spokesman, each cop fired about 10 times. Some of the 20 bullets fired managed to hit Stephon and he was pronounced dead at the scene…
The Nonexistent Gun
“Something in his hands, it looked like a gun from our perspective,” one officer said when backup arrived. After it was determined that Stephon was dead, the police started collecting evidence for the investigation, and could not find the alleged gun he was pointing at the officers chasing him.
In fact, the only thing Stephon had in his hands when he was shot by 2 police officers was a cellphone, an iPhone 6 Plus in a rose gold and black case that belonged to his girlfriend, Salena Manni, and the mother of his 2 young children, Aiden and Cairo. “I know for a fact he was so scared, scared for his life,” said Salena. “He had too much to lose… he would never want to leave his kids…”
Jumping To Conclusions
Police opened an official internal investigation into the shooting to determine if the officers were at fault or if the shooting was justified. Until then, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg urged people to not jump to conclusions about the officers and the difficult situation. “Based on the videos alone, I cannot second-guess the split-second decisions of our officers, and I’m not going to do that,” Mayor Steinberg said. “The investigation must be completed. We need more information in addition to the video before we can render any final conclusions.”
However, when Stephon’s family and the public found out about Stephon’s death, they demanded justice be served. “He was at the wrong place at the wrong time in his own backyard?” Stephon’s grandmother, Sequita, said. “C’mon now, they didn’t have to do that…”
A Criminal Record
According to the police, Stephon had a record, including a robbery charge in 2008, possession of a firearm and a controlled substance in 2013, and felony counts of domestic abuse that he completed a treatment program for. Stephon’s family explained that he had been living at their grandparents’ home for over a month because he was actually getting his life back on track for his family after being released from prison a month earlier.
“I have to wake up every morning to my kids asking me, ‘Where’s Daddy? Let’s go get Daddy,'” Salena said. “‘Daddy’s always in our hearts forever. Don’t forget that.’ Even today, my son he doesn’t understand hearts and tummies. He goes ‘Daddy’s with me. He’s in my tummy…'”
The Wrong Man
While police believe Stephon was the man breaking into cars and a home in the neighborhood, his family disagrees since the Police described the suspect they were looking for as a 6-foot-1 male. “My grandson is short,” Sequita said. The family also explained that Stephon was originally walking to the backyard because the doorbell to the home is broken and everyone knocks on the back window so someone inside can open the garage door.
Unnecessary Lethal Force
What the family thinks, however, isn’t the point. Instead, they feel that the police should never have fired their guns in the first place. Regardless of what they thought they saw Stephon do, they first should have tried non-lethal methods to subdue him. “They didn’t have to kill him like that. They didn’t have to shoot him that many times…My grandson was 23 years old. And now my great-grandbabies don’t have their daddy,” Sequita said. “I want justice for my grandson. That’s all I want is justice — and for all the black kids. As a matter of fact, everybody’s kid that got gunned down by policemen.”